It was a year or so ago that my good friend Henrique Hopkins showed me a YouTube video. We were having one of our many sociopolitical online chats. The video was by a young woman who suggested that as a solution to a lot of the nations problems,we should "just pray to the presidents". At the time it was a source of great laughter for both of us. It was so ridiculous and beyond naive. Sounds like the beginnings of a fascist dictatorship. Surely not something that could ever happen in the USA,land of the free and home of the brave right? Well its the 2016 presidential election as of this writing. And the question of voting for or praying to politicians looms at the center of it all.
In America,there is theoretically supposed to be a defined separation between church and state. But its the internet age now. And anyone of any American generation can look at their money and see "in god we trust". Does that mean the old cliche "money is god" is true? Maybe it just means church and state separation is paper thin in America today. And that due to it being the internet age,a quick online fact check reveals that "in god we trust" wasn't on any US currency until 1956 following the HUAC hearings. In the end,all of this confusion comes down to one reality. And that reality is that having a religious belief and having a religious understanding are two entirely different things.
I am a Mainer born and bred. Always lived in that state.Growing up,there have been people around me who are regular church goers who care about humanistic and liberal causes. And there have also been secular humanists,agnostics and atheists who will view as scientific or political figure they admire with idolatry. As if they could do absolutely no wrong. Church goers or not,more and more people I'm encountering lately seem to be falling into the category of idolatry on that level. This election also contains one of the most polarized characters in my personal lifetime. And that's Donald Trump.
Trump is scathingly written about online almost hourly it seems. At his fundamental core however,I would describe him as being totally apolitical. And non American. That should be that. Yet there was someone else who ran for office this election. Someone who didn't become the democratic nominee. And that was Senator Bernie Sanders,representing the state of Vermont. This native New Yorker was a classic European democratic socialist. He has a stern yet avuncular manner. And a caring,intelligent social agenda. His words seemed to capture the hearts and minds of even the most cynical around me early on in this electoral cycle. Then something I never would have suspected happened.
A lot of people face difficult odds in life. I count myself among them. That led me to finding Mister Sanders' sociopolitical platform very appealing: progressively democratic without being fascist about it. Part of my own therapy in dealing with difficult odds is being a photographer. Love being able to go out and just take pictures of the romantic and beautiful aspects of the outside world. Its very therapeutic. On these journey's this past summer,it was hard not to find a household along the way without a "Bernie Sanders For President" sign posted on their lawn. Towards the end of the summer,Hillary Clinton became the democratic nominee for US president.
After this happened,and I went back out to those same areas looking for new pictures to take,all those Bernie Sanders signs had become...ones that supported Donald Trump and his VP nominee Mike Pence. How could this happen? In another conversation with Henrique,the question arose how people could support a socially progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders one moment,and a fundamentally bigoted one such as Donald Trump. The answer became evident in listening to public conversations around me. Would hear people say they missed having Bernie Sanders to believe in. How they didn't trust Hillary Clinton. And Trump spoke his mind loudly. So they would support Trump instead.
That's when it occurred to me what seemed to be going on. These no longer seemed like politically understanding individuals looking for a politician who supported their views and needs. They began to come across as people looking for a god like figure in the white house. Someone who they could follow behind unconditionally. Again as Henrique and I discussed,there are many American's who are not interested in freedom. Some of these people might say they want the right to do as they please with guns. They might wish to live off the grid and totally support themselves. Yet at the end of the day,they are still seeking a titanic seeming leader to tell them how to be non conformist.
Its an eerie contradiction for sure. It reminded me of a song I was listening to a lot during the ill fated 2000 presidential election-Devo's "Freedom Of Choice". The chorus of the song says "freedom of choice is what you've got/freedom from choice is what you want". Now it would appear American's,especially too many around me, are facing the concept that a pop group posed 36 years ago. In the end,breaking an election down only opens up the opportunity for a readers clarity. There's no guarantees. The question Americans have now is do we want to vote for a president,or pray to them? Its something more people should consider when filling out their ballots in an election.